Rules of Wine­mak­ers

Minsk wine­mak­ers know how to pro­duce high-qual­ity wine

Economy of Belarus - - CONTENTS - Maxim NIKO­lAYEV

Minsk wine­mak­ers know how to pro­duce high-qual­ity wine

Ir­re­place­able

There are some goods that are im­pos­si­ble to pro­duce do­mes­ti­cally. I am not talk­ing about en­ergy re­sources or es­sen­tial raw ma­te­ri­als or prod­ucts. There are some consumer goods that we are used to hav­ing around but can­not pro­duce our­selves due to our his­tory or cli­mate. Wine is among them. There are not so many suc­cess sto­ries when a north­ern coun­try has man­aged to find its niche in the al­co­holic bev­er­ages mar­ket. One of them is Ger­many. The Ger­mans

it is no ac­ci­dent that im­port-sub­sti­tu­tion has be­come an idee` fixe in Be­larus. too many things that we can pro­duce our­selves are im­ported due to old habits or ig­no­rance. in some rare cases im­port­ing goods is bet­ter than mak­ing them do­mes­ti­cally be­cause of their low prices. Yet, the ma­jor­ity of the Be­laru­sian imports are not jus­ti­fied. and the only rea­son for that is ei­ther lazi­ness of sell­ers or lack of ini­tia­tive of pro­duc­ers.

have man­aged to not only take a grip of their do­mes­tic mar­ket with their liqueurs but have also cre­ated brands that be­came pop­u­lar all around the world. Yet this is not a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple as Ger­man al­co­hol pro­duc­ers owe their suc­cess to Ger­many’s drink­ing tra­di­tions and the fact that they use grain al­co­hol to make strong spir­its rather than grapes re­quired for pro­duc­tion of wine.

In re­cent years lo­cal wine­mak­ers have been try­ing to grow vine in the south­ern re­gions of Be­larus with a view to launch­ing the pro­duc­tion of wine and brandy. Of course, I wish them luck. But we have to be re­al­is­tic here – even if the lo­cal wine man­ages to find its way to our ta­bles and our minds, it will only do so in the ca­pac­ity of the or­di­nary ta­ble wine to ac­com­pany ev­ery­day meals.

Yet thanks to the grow­ing in­comes and greater travel op­por­tu­ni­ties many Be­laru­sians get fa­mil­iar with the Western wine drink­ing cul­ture. We tried wines from dif­fer­ent coun­tries and con­ti­nents and we now know the dif­fer­ence. In the last ten years many of our friends have lit­er­ary turned into true wine con­nois­seurs who are able to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween South African Chardon­nay and Aus­tralian Sauvi­gnon. To sub­sti­tute these wines with the do­mes­tic pro­duce made from grapes cul­ti­vated in yet non-ex­is­tent vine groves of Gomel Oblast and Brest Oblast will not be pos­si­ble. As the qual­ity of wine de­pends on the sort of grapes, soil, num­ber of sunny days in a year, av­er­age an­nual tem­per­a­ture, wine­mak­ers’ skills, meth­ods and terms of ag­ing, hundreds of years of tra­di­tion af­ter all! This is a fact.

So do we have no choice but to im­port? Will we never be able to make a de­cent sub­sti­tu­tion to French, Ital­ian or even Mol­da­vian and Ge­or­gian wines?

Sub­sti­tu­tion, not Re­place­ment

Ex­perts of Minsk Grape Wines Fac­tory be­lieve in the op­po­site. Although they agree that it is im­pos­si­ble to make wine of the same qual­ity as in France and Italy in our cli­mate, it does not mean that the Be­laru­sians are doomed to drink im­ported wine pay­ing to for­eign

busi­ness­men for the whole pro­duc­tion process.

Wine pro­duc­tion is a long tech­no­log­i­cal chain that in­cludes pro­cesses that can­not be car­ried out in Be­larus due to ob­jec­tive causes (for in­stance, vine cul­ti­va­tion, wine pro­duc­tion, ag­ing in spe­cial oak bar­rels with cer­tain tem­per­a­tures and hu­mid­ity, etc.), but there are also op­er­a­tions that are quite doable here. Given the Be­laru­sian wine fac­to­ries are ad­e­quately equipped, of course.

From a pro­ducer’s point of view, be­fore wine is blended and bot­tled, it is not re­ally wine, but rather wine ma­te­rial. It is much cheaper to im­port wine ma­te­rial than to buy bot­tled wine abroad. This is the im­port-sub­sti­tu­tion strat­egy of Minsk Grape Wines Fac­tory (trade­mark Am­bas­sador). By bot­tling wine made of im­ported wine ma­te­rial at its own premises the fac­tory man­ages to meet the coun­try’s grow­ing de­mand for high-qual­ity grape wines si­mul­ta­ne­ously sav­ing on for­eign currency ex­penses.

The fac­tory with ex­pe­ri­enced man­ager at its helm De­nis Moroz has in­tro­duced quite a num­ber of in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions that had never been used in Be­larus be­fore.

Thus, for the first time ever the Be­laru­sian wine fac­tory put to­gether a team of the most ex­pe­ri­enced tech­nol­o­gists headed by Ivan Trot­sky, Deputy Di­rec­tor, Tech­nolo­gies and Pro­duc­tion. He is a top-notch spe­cial­ist, a con­nois­seur of wine and other al­co­holic bev­er­ages with a great vi­sion for the global wine mar­ket de­vel­op­ment.

For the first time ever in Be­larus Minsk Grape Wines Fac­tory has in­tro­duced a cold wine bot­tling tech­nol­ogy which does not re­quire warm­ing the wine up be­fore bot­tling at the last pro­duc­tion stage. Warm­ing up (pas­teur­iza­tion) af­fects the taste, aroma and con­sis­tency of wine. Cold bot­tling al­lows pre­serv­ing all the rich pal­ette of taste that the wine­mak­ers want to de­liver to their cus­tomers.

And fi­nally, Minsk Grape Wines Fac­tory ex­perts were the first Be­laru­sian wine­mak­ers to reach the global wine in­dus­try level by sign­ing long-term strate­gic agree­ments and es­tab­lish­ing part­ner­ship re­la­tions with the best wine­mak­ers from France, Moldova, Ge­or­gia and Italy, true lead­ers of the in­dus­try which seems to be pretty closed for new­com­ers.

Great Prospects

Di Cosimo is a well-known large wine pro­ducer in Italy. It was the first Ital­ian com­pany to ad­vance into the Be­laru­sian mar­ket and start di­rect ship­ments of wine ma­te­rial to Minsk Grape Wines Fac­tory.

“Our part­ners in Be­larus are great,” Sig­nor di Cosimo said in an in­ter­view with our correspondent when asked to de­scribe the level of co­op­er­a­tion which is, in fact, not yet a year old. “Yes, they are de­mand­ing, but re­li­able. And co­op­er­a­tion prospects with Minsk col­leagues are most promis­ing. We hope that ev­ery year we will dou­ble the amount of wine shipped to the Be­laru­sian mar­ket,” added Sig­nor di Cosimo.

To­day Be­larus pro­duces four types of Ital­ian wines: red and white semi-sweet Grandi Vini di Roma in te­tra packs, and semidry white and red bot­tled Castelli

Ro­mani Bianco and Castelli Ro­mani Rosso. It takes just a few days to de­liver wine in modern wine-tanks to Minsk. So wine does not lose its qual­ity dur­ing the jour­ney, says De­nis Moroz.

At this point I sus­pect some “know-it-all ex­pert” would in­ter­rupt us say­ing: “Hold on! Semidry? Semi-sweet? But the Ital­ians them­selves pre­fer dry wines. And it is the dry wine that ma­tures in French oak bar­rels in the cel­lars of Di Cosimo”.

Well, that is right. The Ital­ians drink and make, of course, dry wines, and your hum­ble ser­vant was in those cel­lars where this won­der­ful prod­uct is ma­tur­ing. But ...

Ev­ery coun­try has its own tastes, says Ivan Trot­sky when ex­plain­ing the logic of consumer pref­er­ences. Sweet wine is still most pop­u­lar in Be­larus. Semi-dry goes sec­ond.

To make, for ex­am­ple, semisweet wine, dry wine is blended in cer­tain pro­por­tions with con­cen­trated grape juice, which gives wine char­ac­ter­is­tic sweet­ness. This juice is also supplied by Di Cosimo that ap­plies the lat­est tech­nol­ogy to make it.

They treat the con­cen­trate with cold, says Ivan Trot­sky. They do not boil it or evap­o­rate it. As a re­sult, the juice has ex­cel­lent organolep­tic prop­er­ties and does not change the “body” of wine or af­fect its taste.

By the way, the Ital­ian part­ners reg­u­larly check the qual­ity of the wine bot­tled in Minsk for com­pli­ance with the Di Cosimo stan­dards. Pier­paolo Di Cosimo, the head of the fam­ily busi­ness, says that the Be­laru­sian prod­uct is iden­ti­cal to the wine made in Italy both in terms of its chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion and organolep­tic and taste prop­er­ties.

They say trust, but ver­ify. We went to Italy to see the vine­yards of the Di Cosimo com­pany in the Lazio re­gion, which is sit­u­ated be­tween Rome and Naples. Beau­ti­ful! Straight rows of vines not higher than a man’s height are dot­ted with bunches of ripen­ing grapes. Work­ers clean the bushes ev­ery day from un­nec­es­sary sprouts and berries of poor qual­ity to make sure the plants “use their juices most ef­fi­ciently”. Each vine gets water through rows of hoses.

We also took a tour of the fac­to­ries of the com­pany, got fa­mil­iar with the equip­ment such as grape presses, juice brew­ing tanks. We also vis­ited the room where wine ma­tures. For three years at least it ages in French oak bar­rels to pro­duce a bright, in­tense, mem­o­rable and unique taste.

Still, the pref­er­ences of our cus­tomers change. Dry wine is get­ting more pop­u­lar with Be­laru­sians. Now we are com­plet­ing the fi­nal prepa­ra­tions to start pro­duc­ing the Ital­ian dry wine that is so much ap­pre­ci­ated in the Apen­nines. Es­pe­cially since we are the only ones in the coun­try who use the cold bot­tling tech­nol­ogy which does not al­ter the taste and prop­er­ties of wine.

Soon our cus­tomers will be able to buy wine from a Vat­i­can sup­plier. Di Cosimo has been the of­fi­cial wine sup­plier of the Holy See for many years. Two pon­tiffs were born in the Lazio re­gion, and they pre­ferred wine from their home re­gion. Since then, says Sig­nor di Cosimo, the brands “Corte dei Papi” (The Pa­pal Court), “Col­letonno”, “Villa Fer­rari” are of­fi­cially de­liv­ered to the Vat­i­can.

We in­tend to in­crease the pro­duc­tion of nat­u­ral grape wines on fran­chis­ing terms up to 30%, says De­nis Moroz, the di­rec­tor of Minsk Grape Wines Fac­tory. Bot­tling of wine on the fran­chis­ing terms means that the wine pro­ducer trusts our com­pany and the qual­ity of the prod­uct we man­u­fac­ture.

Fran­chis­ing, or the pro­duc­tion of wine un­der the brands of wellestab­lished man­u­fac­tur­ers, does a good job of pro­mot­ing wine drink­ing cul­ture in our coun­try.

Wine Drink­ing Cul­ture

I wish we would learn to drink wine the way they do it in the di Cosimo fam­ily some day!

Pier­paolo can talk about wine for hours, what it means for the Ital­ians and how they drink it. We would only like to note here that, as ev­i­denced by the sta­tis­tics, Italy is Europe’s leader in wine con­sump­tion: 54 liters per capita per year! But, as Sig­nor di Cosimo says, Ital­ians drink wine not to get drunk.

Ev­ery day Pier­paolo treats him­self to two glasses of wine - at lunch and din­ner. In the af­ter­noon, when it is hot Sig­nor di Cosimo prefers cold dry white wine. Dry red wine which has a won­der­ful warm­ing prop­erty is usu­ally served at fam­ily din­ners in the evening.

Red wine is closer to the soil. It is filled with vi­tal juices. That is why it is more pas­sion­ate, more evening­type, ex­plains Pier­paolo.

On fam­ily oc­ca­sions Ital­ians open a bot­tle of spumante, a light sparkling wine. If it is a ro­man­tic date, it is usu­ally red wine. If it is a busi­ness din­ner then it is white wine that can be eas­ily di­luted with ice-cold min­eral water from moun­tain springs. But the Ital­ians never have wine for no rea­son or be­cause they want to get tipsy.

I do not un­der­stand how any­one can drink wine just for the sake of drink­ing, Sig­nor di Cosimo shrugs his shoul­ders in be­wil­der­ment. Wine is part of the meal. It goes with cer­tain food. Wine, ac­cord­ing to our Ital­ian laws, is con­sid­ered food. One kind is prefer­able with some dishes, an­other with some other food ... But in any case, to have a glass of wine with no food to fol­low just to get tipsy is un­ac­cept­able for us!

In other words, when we drink we take some food with the drink. The Ital­ians have wine to ac­com­pany food and en­joy the taste of their won­der­ful cui­sine. This is the fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween their cul­ture of wine drink­ing and our drink­ing habits.

Thus, Minsk Grape Wines Fac­tory in strate­gic part­ner­ship with the Ital­ian com­pany Di Cosimo pur­pose­fully in­creases the ex­po­sure of Ital­ian wines on the Be­laru­sian mar­ket and, from an eco­nomic point of view, re­duces for­eign ex­change ex­penses on buy­ing ready-bot­tled wines. But not every­thing in this world is mea­sured by eco­nomic pa­ram­e­ters. It is not by chance that the Be­laru­sian govern­ment, year af­ter year, through quo­tas and other ad­min­is­tra­tive tools, has been work­ing to bring struc­tural changes in the Be­laru­sian pro­duc­tion of al­co­holic bev­er­ages, en­cour­ag­ing the pro­duc­ers to make high-qual­ity wines.

The pol­icy has borne fruit. In H1 2011 Be­larus’ grape wines pro­duc­tion grew by 25% in com­par­i­son with the same pe­riod of last year. The share of grape wines on the mar­ket amounted to 15%. Im­port went down by 3%.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of Minsk Grape Wines Fac­tory can be rec­og­nized as ex­em­plary. These are the uni­ver­sal rules of true wine­mak­ers, which this par­tic­u­lar com­pany works hard to cul­ti­vate in Be­larus.

Minsk Grape Wines Fac­tory Di­rec­tor De­nis Moroz and head wine­maker

Ivan Trot­sky visit the fam­ily en­ter­prise Di Cosimo

This year’s grape har­vest ma­tures un­der the sun in the Lazio re­gion, Italy

Tanks for wine ma­te­ri­als at Di Cosimo’s win­ery near the town of

Anagni

The fa­vorite wine of His Ho­li­ness and… the Be­laru­sians!

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